MAINSTREAM MAGAZINES: Gloss Dotcom - Publishing a magazine on the web can be a tricky business. Three editors talk about what made their titles a success

ANTHONY THORNTON, editor NME.com



Don't fuck with the magic. It's that simple. Oh, and don't just

transpose the magazine online and expect it to work. But apart from

that, taking a brand online is easy.



The NME wandered on to the net in June 1996, a little dazed and a little

confused but on the right side of adequate. By November 1998 NME.com

needed someone with good editorial experience and vision who knew the

web intimately. That's where I came in.



The entire online brand had to be quickly refocused concentrating on

four core issues. How should it integrate with the paper and other NME

properties? Which of the core values of the brand should be promoted

online? Which values should be played down? After nearly 50 years, could

it face up to the prospect of being a truly global brand?



NME and NME.com had to work together to complement each other or the

website was doomed - seriously damaging the brand. There was a small

amount of resistance from some more traditional staff - but as the

benefits rolled in (increased subscriptions, greater brand awareness,

huge figures, one of the best music sites in the world), the NME brand

began to work closer together as one machine. Albeit one with uneroded

attitude.



The NME brand had three aspects tailor-made for the web - information,

attitude and community. It was the form in which these were delivered

that had to be completely redefined; NME.com had to deliver music

information precisely when it was needed and how it was needed. As it

happened - anywhere in the world. NME became genuinely global.



Attitude was shifted from the staff to the online community. NME.com

gave the attitude full vent with more than 50 message boards - open all

day and night.



The advantage of these moves was that the NME brand became a more

immediate and continuous experience. The weekly fix became a constant

one. And the benefits are obvious.



But the process of evaluation is not a one-off affair - the evolution of

the website has influenced the evolution of the paper and as it moves

on, this in turn is influencing the direction of the website.



ANTHONY GOTTLIEB - editor Economist.com



We've put all of The Economist online each Thursday evening since early

1997. This achieved three things for us: it enabled us to get our

articles to our readers around the world more quickly (this was the most

popular aspect of our site); it gave them a searchable archive; and it

brought us new readers, thanks to links from other sites. Our name is a

bit of a drawback in one respect: people who don't know the magazine

understandably think it is all about economics. Our site has helped to

spread the word about what it really is: a global 'viewspaper' with

news, opinion and analysis on current affairs, business, science and

culture.



Now Economist.com has moved way beyond that: it is not only promoting

and supporting the print magazine, it is changing what we do. Since

October 2000 we've had a much more ambitious site. We publish articles,

which do not appear in print, throughout the week. So we can analyse and

opine in a more timely fashion, without having to wait for Thursdays.

We've filled a gap in the market for travel information by providing

online city guides for business travellers - a natural service to offer

our highly mobile audience. We provide all sorts of ways for readers to

dig deeper into the background of stories when they want to. And we're

packaging information and services from outside sources, to build a

one-stop-shop for political and business information: global market

tracking, newswires and an archive of thousands of external

publications. On the lighter side, we have a daily current affairs quiz,

Infrequently Asked Questions, which is proving popular. And there is

plenty more coming.



In the next few weeks we'll be launching the web's most comprehensive

country-briefing service, together with our sister organisation, the

Economist Intelligence Unit, and a careers microsite, called the Global

Executive.



ABIGAIL CHISMAN - editor-in-chief Conde Nast Online



At Conde Nast, we have always played to our strengths by using our

world-class brands in establishing our online businesses. Ever since the

Vogue site launched in 1997, we have striven to create a compelling and

original online proposition that complements rather than competes with

the magazine - and to ensure the site could generate new revenue streams

of its own. There are no hard and fast rules about how to build a

successful website, as the demise of so many valiant start-ups last year

proved.



However, the following ingredients are crucial: a strong brand name;

entertaining and informative content, tailored specifically to the web;

and a good reason to be online at all.



It sounds obvious, but one thing that continues to amaze us about new

internet companies is how few offer a truly unique or valuable

service.



Another is how existing offline companies fail to leverage or support

their brands properly online.



What we have endeavoured to do is add value to the Vogue brand, for both

the magazine's makers and its readers. For the magazine, as well as

giving Vogue the web presence it deserves, we generate hundreds of new

subscriptions every month. For the readers, we bring genuinely new

services, including breaking fashion news daily, plus the world's most

comprehensive coverage of the collections, featuring live footage and

tens of thousands of images from the shows in all four fashion

capitals.



In general, we have avoided reusing the magazine's content, except to

establish our heritage. We have instead identified two types of content

that work best on the web: the latest news/live updates (see Vogue

Daily, webcams, etc) and searchable encyclopaedic information (hence our

seasonal shows coverage, the designer biographies, and stockists'

lists). Also, we strike the right balance between style and

functionality (no-one has time for beautiful sites with no purpose). And

we make sure that our readers find the information they want as quickly

as possible, with fast downloads and clear navigation.



All of these ideas contributed to the development of the site we

relaunched last May. Happily the internet is very accountable - so we

knew immediately just how successful we had been. Following our famous

ad campaign, we saw page impressions rocket from 7.5 million to 32.4

million and ad revenues soar 79 per cent year on year, which helped turn

Vogue.com into the biggest fashion site on the net and a financially

viable business in its own right.



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